A bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justice Dhananjaya Chandrachud and Justice Hemant Gupta today directed that the Goa Raj Bhavan’s petition against the Right to Information Act be placed before the Chief Justice of India to constitute a bench of three judges to hear the petition.
The Raj Bhavan in November last year challenged before the High Court the order passed by the Goa Chief Information Commissioner on 15th October, who while disposing a petition filed by Adv. Aires Rodrigues had upheld the earlier orders of the Commission holding that the Goa Raj Bhavan is a Public Authority and comes within the ambit of the RTI Act. Incidentally a month after moving the High Court the Raj Bhavan moved a Transfer petition before the Supreme Court.
Adv. Aires Rodrigues in a eight page reply filed before the High Court strongly opposed the Raj Bhavan petition while stating that it was most reprehensible and a red letter day to see that the Raj Bhavan has approached the Court with an intent to stifle due enforcement of the RTI Act which is a legislation passed by Parliament with a view to bring transparency in the working of the Government both at the Centre and the State.
Pointing out that all Raj Bhavans across the country and even the Rashtrapati Bhavan has opened its doors for freedom of Information, Adv. Rodrigues stated that the Goa Raj Bhavan has apparently forgotten that the Governor is a constitutional functionary required to act as per the constitutional mandate with total transparency and not as any colonial hangover.
On a complaint filed by Adv. Aires Rodrigues the then State Chief Information Commissioner Mr. Motilal Keny on 31st March 2011 had ruled that the Goa Governor was a Public Authority and did come within the ambit of the Right to Information Act.
Later dismissing the appeal filed by the Goa Raj Bhavan against the order of the GSIC, the Bombay High Court at Goa in a landmark 58 page judgment pronounced on 14th November 2011 also ruled that the Governor of Goa was a Public Authority and was bound to furnish information sought under the RTI Act.
Taking a stand that the Goa Governor is not a Public Authority and does not come within the ambit of the RTI Act, the Goa Raj Bhavan later challenged before the Supreme Court the Bombay High Court judgment. A Division Bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Amitava Roy on 30th January last year dismissed the Special Leave Petition filed by the Goa Raj Bhavan.
Adv. Aires Rodrigues in his application on 19th October last year to the Public Information Officer at the Goa Raj Bhavan sought information on details of official tours and trips within India and overseas by the Governor and her family from the day she assumed office as Governor on 31st August 2014 to date and the total expenditure incurred on each of the tour and trip.
Adv. Rodrigues also sought details of the unofficial tours and trips within India and overseas by the Governor and her family from the day she assumed office as Governor on 31st August 2014 to date paid for by Goa Government or Raj Bhavan and the total expenditure incurred on each of the tour and trip.
Adv. Rodrigues further sought details of guests including VIPs, VVIPs and others who stayed at the Raj Bhavan from 31st August 2014 to date and the expenditure incurred on each such guest during their stay giving break up expenditure on stay, food, and travel.
Also sought by Adv. Rodrigues were details of vehicles purchased for the Raj Bhavan from 31st August 2014 to date and the expenditure incurred on the purchase of each of the vehicle.